How to stand out from the competition RIGHT NOW.

People always want to know: how can I differentiate myself?  How they can leave an impact on a customer?  What if I told you one of the easiest tools to accomplish this has been in use since ancient civilization AND you probably have all of the tools in your desk drawer? Put down your smartphone.  Pick up a pen, card & a stamp.  It’s time to re-visit the handwritten note.

Think about it.  When was the last time you received an unexpected handwritten card?  It’s ok if you don’t remember.  Let’s try this one: how did you feel the last time you received an unexpected handwritten card?  I bet you can answer that one.  Positive?  You bet.

Handwritten notes may have lost their popularity but they haven’t lost their impact.  Actually, I was venture to claim that because they’re not utilized as much anymore with new technology handwritten notes have more influence than ever.  

Email is wonderful.  Smart phones are life changing.  Memorable?  Not so much.  Some days I may get upwards of 50 or more emails….in one day. Guess what?  Your potential clients deal with the same email overload.  And…. your competitors are in their inbox as well.  Your thank you email may be a nice change of pace but might not shine as bright – it’s all about perspective.  Cards always stand out when you pick up the mail.  I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like receiving a card.  The recipient will most likely smile, maybe tell a co-worker, but definitely remember the gesture.  Memorable.  See?  You’re differentiating yourself!

Good business is built on relationships.  Relationships are built by sharing ideas, sharing contacts, giving referrals and helping others.  Showing gratitude by saying “thanks” sends the message that you noticed their effort, you value their time and you appreciate it.  It’s wired within us – everyone, young and old, likes when their efforts are noticed.

I don’t have buying power.  I’m in sales – businesses invest their money with my company for services that can help them grow.  However, I sometimes find myself on the receiving end of a “thank you” from time to time for going above and beyond to help a client.  I work with hundreds of vendors.  I’m in the wedding industry and I’m married so I’m not their target audience to buy, BUT I’ll remember those few companies among the hundreds when someone asks me for a referral.  When they call you can bet their message is one of the first I return.  When our magazine or website needs a quick quote or image or idea, you can bet I think of that vendor first.  It’s not that I don’t value my other clients – it’s human nature to reciprocate to those who acknowledge and appreciate what I do for them, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not.

Timing is important.  Don’t wait until the client has rejected your proposal to write a thank you note for the meeting that was 2 weeks ago.  Don’t wait until after the referral buys from you to say thank you.  Don’t wait until 2 weeks before the contract is up for renewal to reach out and let them know you’re committed to their business.  Write it as soon as you can

Printed notes and the handwritten word are not the same.  Yes, they’re creative.  Yes, it saves you time and maybe a hand cramp here and there.  But even my dog’s veterinarian personalizes appointment reminders with a picture of a dog that looks like mine and my dogs name.  It may be thoughtful but it’s printed – it doesn’t have the same positive and lasting effect.  Write it out.  It only takes a minute or two longer than an email.

I’m not telling you to buy-out the post office and spend every day writing notes until your fingers bleed.  But stock up on professional stationery, make them easily accessible and use them!  Recognize how impressionable a good ‘ole handwritten note can be.  It goes a long way and in this competitive marketplace and economy a couple extra yards can make a BIG difference in your success.

TAKE ACTION: Make a goal of writing 1 thank you note a week.  Feeling ambitious?  Write one a day.

Remember, if you can send an email – you can write and send a card.  Choose to be memorable!